15 October 2022

Saint Mary’s Church, a mediaeval
church in Shenley Church End

Saint Mary’s Church, Shenley Church End … now part of the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership in Milton Keynes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Saint Mary’s Church, Shenley Church End, earlier this week for a meeting involving clergy in the Milton Keynes area. Saint Mary’s is an ecumenical church in Shenley Church End, Milton Keynes, and the church is now part of the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership. I was shown around the church this week by the Revd Ruth Harley, the curate in Saint Mary’s.

The names of Shenley Church End and Shenley Brook End to the south indicate that the mediaeval village was in a forest clearing, and part of Shenley Wood survives to the west.

The village of Shenley Church End was absorbed in the development of Milton Keynes in the 1970s and 1980s. But it remains a pretty village curving streets and suburban houses on the south-west edge of the new city.

Inside Saint Mary’s Church, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Shenley Church End retains much of its legacy, including Saint Mary’s Church, the Norman and Early English parish church, the 17th century Stafford Almshouses, a hawthorn bush said to have been grown from a cutting of the Glastonbury Thorn, and traces of the mediaeval motte, known as the Toot, south of the church.

Two manors in Shenley Church End (Senelai) were held by Burgheard, a housecarl of Edward the Confessor, before the Conquest. In 1086, both manors were held from the Earl of Chester, but in neither case was a church or a priest mentioned.

These two manors passed as a single estate to the Maunsell family. The first known Rectors of Saint Mary’s were presented by Thomas Maunsell in 1223 and 1229, but the church is much earlier than that.

Inside Saint Mary’s Church, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The stonework in the church covers both Norman and Early English periods. The church is built of coursed rubble limestone, is of cruciform plan with battlemented parapets at the nave, a central tower and chancel with a north vestry, an aisled and clerestoried nave, transepts, plain parapets at the aisles and a south porch.

Parts of the nave date back to ca 1150, and parts of the chancel date back to ca 1180. Romanesque interest centres on the chancel, where a deliberate feature is that each window was made to a slightly different design. The chancel also has a 13th century sedilia and a curios double piscina from the same period.

The chancel and nave in Saint Mary’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The chancel has side lancets deeply recessed with roll mould on the inner arch, and slender shafts with plain caps supporting the toothed chevroned outer arch. On the outside, these windows have shafts supporting moulded arches with strings at the cap and cill level.

A plain window in the south transept suggests that there was an earlier 12th century cruciform church on the site, and a blocked plain 12th century lancet in the east wall of the south transept suggests the present chancel is not the original one.

When the aisles were added, between the start of the 13th century and the 14th century, the arcades must have fitted the available space.

The south arcade in Saint Mary’s Church dates from the 13th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The south arcade is crude work of ca 1200 or a few years later. The north arcade is later still. Both arcades are of four bays, and their east bays were cut back when heavy buttresses were inserted to support the crossing tower. The south arcade has round piers and plain caps and hoods with toothed moulding.

The aisle windows are 14th century, as are those of the clerestory. The clerestory has three windows on each side. These are more elaborate on the south side than the north side, as are the chancel windows.

The west wall and outer walls of the transept are 12th century, and the large west window is Perpendicular.

The tower was replaced with the present one at some time in the 15th century. The care taken to buttress the new tower, at the expense of the arcades, suggests that the old one fell down.

The octagonal font dates from the 15th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The octagonal font is from the 15th century. The tower was enlarged from its Norman dimensions in the late 15th century, the timber roof is 15th century, the north transept has a Perpendicular window and a 17th century altar, the south doorway is 15th century, but the south porch is l9th century.

The altar rails date from the 17th or 18th century. The octagonal pulpit was rebuilt in 1912 with some 17th century panels. The organ was built by Walker of London in 1870.

The 15th century East Window includes re-glazed stained glass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Revd TH Garde initiated a major restoration of the church in 1888-1890. Many changes were made throughout the church, including the addition of the present woodwork in the nave.

The re-glazed stained glass in the 15th century East Window has the inscription: ‘Isabella Caroline Garde wife of TH Garde born 1847 died 1885 in loving memory by her mother Emily Cromie.’

The octagonal stair turret in the tower was external but was made internal with the addition of the north-east vestry in 1888. The south porch was also added that year.

The Lady Chapel was arranged in its present form in 1909 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

During the restoration work by the Revd JR Vincent in 1909, when the altar and the panelling in the sanctuary were installed, and the Lady Chapel was arranged in its present form.

This restoration in 1909 included the stencilled decorations in the chancel and the chancel and the south transept. The chancel walls have IHC and IHS stencils. The Lady Chapel altar was originally in the sanctuary, and was rebuilt at that time, with only the four Jacobean legs being original.

The window depicting Saint Hugh of Lincoln and Saint Frideswide of Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The figures on the rood screen were carved at the studio of Oscar Zwink of Oberammergau. Generation of the Zwink family were involved in the Oberammergau Passion Play.

Oscar Zwink also carved the triptych on the altar in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral, designed by Charles Earner Kempe (1837-1907).

The window beside the Lady Chapel depicts Saint Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln in 1189, holding a model of Lincoln Cathedral, and Saint Frideswide, the patron saint of the Diocese of Oxford.

The north aisle monument of Sir Thomas Stafford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The most striking monument in the church is that in the north aisle to Sir Thomas Stafford (1607), of Tattenhoe, the founder of the Almshouses in the village. This monument includes a recumbent effigy on a base with a central figure of his wife flanked by their four sons and three daughters, all carved in relief, and dramatically recalls that only one son and two daughters were still alive when he died.

Behind is an inscription panel flanked by side panels supporting a cornice with side scrolls and a coat of arms over.

This monument was originally on the east wall of the family mausoleum, now the Lady Chapel, and was moved to its present position in front of the old North Door during the restorations in 1909.

A panel over the south door with the royal arms of George III is dated 1772 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

An early Elizabethan monument on the north side of the chancel is to Sir Edmund Ashfyld, who died in 1577), and his wife Eleanor Stafford. It is a marble sarcophagus under a canopy in a recess, supported by three Corinthian columns on plinths with shafts, one of jasper, two of porphyry. Ashfyld was granted the Manors of Shenley by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563.

There are 18th century monuments to members of the Stafford family and to former rectors.

A panel over the south door with the royal arms of George III is dated 1772.

In recent works in the church, an accessible toilet was installed in the north transept in 2008, and kitchen facilities were installed in the north-west corner of the nave.

The stencilled decorations in the chancel date from 1909 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The parish now belongs to the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership, including Shenley Church End, Loughton, Tattenhoe, Two Mile Ash and Furzton. The church is Grade I listed, and is one of two churches in the partnership with an active bell tower. The six bells are rung by a team of bellringers for weddings and special events.

The Revd Sharon Grenham-Thompson is the Lead Minister at Saint Mary’s, the Revd Ruth Harley is the curate. Sunday Services are: 10 am Holy Communion, first and third Sundays; Morning Worship, second Sundays; All-Age service, fourth Sundays.

The features in the chancel include encaustic tiles, probably made by Minton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Further Reading:

Niklaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (London, 1960).

Niklaus Pevsner and E Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (London 2nd ed, 1994).

The south porch in Saint Mary’s Church, Shenley Church End (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Saturday 15 October 2022

The Saint Thomas the Apostle Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, dates from ca 1410 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Patrick Comerford

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today [15 October] recalls Saint Teresa of Avila (1582), Teacher of the Faith, with a Lesser Festival.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

During the last two weeks, I was reflecting each morning on a church, chapel, or place of worship in York, where I stayed last month. This week I have been reflecting on the windows in one of those churches: All Saints’ Church, North Street, York.

In my prayer diary this week I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection on the windows in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Saint Thomas the Apostle in the Saint Thomas Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Saint Teresa was born into an aristocratic Spanish family in 1515. Following her mother’s death, she was educated by Augustinian nuns and then ran away from home to enter a Carmelite convent when she was 20. After initial difficulties in prayer, her intense mystical experiences attracted many disciples. She was inspired to reform the Carmelite rule and, assisted by Saint John of the Cross, she travelled throughout Spain founding many new religious houses for men as well as women. Her writings about her own spiritual life and progress in prayer towards union with God include The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, which are still acclaimed. She knew great physical suffering and died of exhaustion on 4 October 1582. Her feast is on 15 October because the very day after her death the reformed calendar was adopted in Spain and elsewhere and 10 days were omitted from October that year.

Luke 12: 8-12 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 8 ‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; 9 but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

The Risen Christ in the Saint Thomas Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

The Saint Thomas Window and the Coat-of-Arms Window, All Saints’ Church, York:

All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, which I described in this prayer diary recently (28 September 2022), is said to be ‘York’s finest mediaeval church.’ It dates from the 11th century and stands near the River Ouse.

The church has an important collection of mediaeval stained glass, including ‘The Pricke of Conscience’ window, depicting the 15 signs of the End of the World; the window depicting the Corporal Works of Mercy (see Matthew 25: 31ff); the Great East Window, originally in the north wall and the Lady Chapel Window, which I was looking at on Thursday (13 October 2022); the Saint James the Great Window (which I was looking at yesterday (13 October 2022); and the Saint Thomas Window and the Coats-of-Arms window, which I am looking at this morning.

All Saints’ Church, on North Street, York, is known particularly for two early 15th century windows: the window depicting ‘The Pricke Of Conscience’ or ‘The Fifteen Signs of Doom’ window, which I was looking at earlier this week (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday); and the window depicting the ‘Corporal Works of Mercy’ (see Matthew 25: 35-46), which I was looking at on Wednesday.

This morning, I am reflecting on the Saint Thomas Window and the Coats-of-Arms window.

The Saint Thomas Window:

The 15th century Saint Thomas Window dates from ca 1410. William Vescy left money in his will in 1407 for the Chantry Chapel of Saint Thomas the Martyr, or Saint Thomas Becket.

1, The Left Light: Saint Thomas the Apostle, known as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because, according to Saint John’s Gospel, he refused to believe in the resurrection of Christ until he saw and touched him. The scroll behind his head reads Dominus meus et Deus meus (‘My Lord and my God’), Saint Thomas’s confession of faith when he saw the risen Christ.

2, The Centre Light: The Risen Christ, who shows to Saint Thomas the visible wounds in his hands, feet and side.

3, The Right Light: Saint Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. He was declared a saint three years later, and was very popular in the 15th century.

As a chantry was founded on this spot at the altar of Saint Thomas the Martyr, Saint Thomas Becket, ca 1407-1409, there certainly was an image of Saint Thomas Becket in this window. However, Henry VIII ordered the destruction of all images of Saint Becket in churches in 1538.

This archbishop, however, does not quite fit in this window. The ‘floor’ level on which he stands is wrong compared to the other two lights. In addition, he was placed here only in the 1970s.

Before that, this light was in another position in the church and identified as Saint William of York, the Archbishop of York murdered, allegedly by his archdeacon, by sipping from a poisoned chalice was while celebrating Mass in York Minster in 1154.

The Coat of Arms Window:

The shields in Coat of Arms Window date from the 15th century, and were originally in the East Window in the Lady Chapel. Some are believed to be connected with the Visions Of Our Lady received in All Saints’ Church by the anchoress Emma Raughton in 1421, the best-documented visions in mediaeval English history.

Emma was an anchoress in York who lived a life of prayer away from the ordinary world in a small building attached to All Saints’ Church during the 1420s and 1430s.

In particular the shield at bottom right containing six pears belongs to the Beauchamp family. In her visions, Emma said, Our Lady instructed that Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, was to have care of an as-yet-unborn infant son of King Henry V. She also foretold the king’s death.

At the time, Henry V and his pregnant wife were in York. Henry V died the following year on a military campaign in France in 1422.

As she predicted, the promised son was educated by Beauchamp and was crowned as King Henry VI in England and also in Notre-Dame in Paris in 1431.

In the top of each of the three lights is an exuberant architectural fantasy known as a ‘canopy’. Similar canopies can be seen in many of the windows in All Saints’ Church. The canopies in this window originally went with a different, now unknown, window.

The shield with the fleur-de-lys of France and the lions of England represents the coat-of-arms of Henry V. The six golden pears on a shield represent an alternative coat-of-arms of the Beauchamp family.

Saint Thomas Becket, or Saint William of York, in the Saint Thomas Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Today’s Prayer (Saturday 15 October 2022):

The Collect:

Merciful God,
who by your Spirit raised up your servant Teresa of Avila
to reveal to your Church the way of perfection:
grant that her teaching
may awaken in us a longing for holiness,
until we attain to the perfect union of love
in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with Teresa to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week has been ‘Day of the Girl Child.’ This theme is introduced this morning by the Revd Benjamin Inbaraj, Director of the CSI-SEVA department, which runs the Church of South India’s social ministries.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for those who work within UK churches to make these environments safe and enjoyable for children.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Coat of Arms Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Further reading:

‘Church of All Saints with Anchorage Attached, Historic England List Entry 1257067, <https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1257067> [accessed 8 October 2022].
‘The Stained Glass of All Saints’, All Saint Church, <https://www.allsaints-northstreet.org.uk/stainedglass.html> [accessed 8 October 2022].

The royal arms and the Beauchamp arms in the Coat of Arms Window in All Saints’ Church, North Street, York (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)